In a very charged atmosphere, Lower House of the Parliament, Thursday passed the historic Constitution (18th amendment) Bill, 2010, aimed at restoring the 1973 constitution to its original form, with the two- thirds majority. The House passed the bill containing 102 clauses, rejecting a few amendments moved by members regarding concurrent list, renaming the NWFP, intra-party elections and women seats in the House and within parties, proposed by a few members of PML-Q.
For the third reading of the Bill, the mechanism of “voting by division” was adopted with the Speaker asking the members favoring the Bill to move to right side of the aisle and those opposing, to the left.
Following the procedure, the bells were rung for two minutes to call the members to the House and then the lobby doors were locked. The members were allotted number for voting which they recorded with the teller when going to lobbies. Once this process was completed, the members were called back to the House and the count was provided to the Chair which she announced.
“As many as 292 members have voted in favor of the Motion to adopt the 18th Constitutional Amendment Bill 2010 and none against. Consequently the motion is adopted and the Bill is passed with the votes not less than two- thirds of the total membership of the Assembly,” the Speaker announced.
Earlier, during the second reading the bill was adopted clause by clause through a vote count wherein the members supporting and opposing the Bill were counted during voting for each of the 102 clauses of the Bill.
On numerous occasions during the course of passage, the House resounded with desk thumping, slogans of respective political parties and sometimes celebrating the landmark revival of the 1973 Constitution by rising from their seats.
Immense patience was witnessed in the House as during the whole process, more than 270 members remained present in the House all the time, with the Prime Minister not leaving his seat even for a moment.
It was obviously a ‘hard day’ for the Chief Whips of the ruling coalition parties particularly Syed Khursheed Ahmed Shah, Aftab Sheikh and Riaz Hussain Pirzada to keep the count intact.
Some unusual events were also witnessed when certain members did not follow the policy of their respective parties. Significant to mention was the opposing of a clause by Makhdoom Javed Hashmi and Khawaja Saad Rafiq that pertained to intra-party elections, at a time when all of their other party MNAs were supporting this clause.
Kashmala Tariq was the one who moved five amendments, though all were rejected but she showed to possess good knowledge of the Constitution besides the ability of skillfully pleading her case..
Though, no match for experienced Raza Rabbani who rejected the amendments on technical grounds, she was praised by female members when she pleaded the case to allocate 30 per cent seats for females in the House and 10% seats for them in the parties.
The most emotional were the members from Hazara Division who forcefully asked for reviewing the decision to rename NWFP as “Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa” .
“We feel deprived. We feel hurt and alienated. Let us not lose our identity and if so, give us our own province. Give us Hazara province,” the members pleaded.
Except these members, the proceedings remained smooth and congenial where the amendments were adopted either unanimously or with more than two- thirds majority.
If the Pashtoons were happy on renaming of their province, the members of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) celebrated deletion of Ziaul Haq’s name from the Constitution, the PML-N was joyous on repealing the Musharraf’s acts and MQM on giving the provincial autonomy.
What the PML-Q was celebrating was restoration of the Constitution, proving that even if they stood by a dictator, the political will and respect for the Constitution was still alive in their hearts and minds.